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Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Alfred Huo

Dr. Alfred Huo joined the MREC team as an assistant professor in February 2017. Huo’s research focuses on breeding ornamental plants and vegetables using biotechnology such as CRISPR.

Read more about Dr. Huo’s background, his take on the future of horticulture research and advice for those who want to join the field.


1. What do you research?
I mainly research ornamental plants and vegetables like lettuce, blueberries, hops, petunias and mushrooms in the horticulture field to improve plant architecture.

2. What is your research specialization?
I look at the use of biotechnology in plant breeding. For example, I study in lettuce how to lengthen the time before a plant flowers to increase its leaf yield. Factors like heat stress and temperature impact the germination and flowering of plants, and I focus on how to manage these factors during plant production with the gene editing tool CRISPR.

3. What universities have you studied at and what degrees do you hold?
I got my master’s degree in 1998, from a leading agriculture university in China named Huazhong University of Science and Technology. In 2008, I graduated with my doctoral degree from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. From here, I accepted a post-doctoral associate specialist position at the University of California- Davis from 2013 to 2016.

4. What is your hometown?
I am from the Shandong Province in northern China, which is south of Beijing.

5. When did you first realize you wanted to be a researcher?
After my master’s degree, I needed a job and a being researcher seemed like the best option based upon my skill set. I also realized I wanted to continue horticulture research and learn about the changing technology within the field.

Dr. Huo and his biological scientist, Matthew Creech, talk about tissue culture samples.

6. What was your first experience with plant sciences or working with plants?
I began to work with plants at an internship with fruit trees in college. It was mandatory to have an internship, but this was the first hands-on experience with I had with plants. There was a focus on tropical fruit and citrus.

7. What methods or topics do you think future horticulture research will address?
I believe that the combination of advanced technology with conventional methods to improve plant health and production is the key for horticulture research.

8. What advice can you give to someone wanting to study plants or horticulture sciences?
I suggest working on food crops. There is a large market and demand for these products generally always. Foods like wheat, bread, milk and vegetables are all important. Learn the new technology and stay educated in advancement of technology to understand its impacts on research and industry.

Use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems in the real world and to make processes more efficient to benefit everyone. Think how we have progressed from horse carriages to cars and typewriters to personal laptops. These advancements benefited daily life and became ingrained in society.

9. What is your favorite plant?
My favorite plant is prairie gentian Lisianthus eustoma.

10. What is your favorite activity to do in your free time?
I enjoy playing ping pong each day for about an hour to relax and destress at the office.

Check out more about Dr. Huo’s research at his lab website.

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